Cape Town — Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi announced that Zimbabwean Exemption Permit (ZEP) and Lesotho Exemption Permit (LEP) holders may remain in South African until the end of 2025. The change comes after December 31, 2023, was denoted as the expiration of the ZEP programme, which would have affected over 178,000 Zimbabweans.
"I call upon all the affected Zimbabwe and Lesotho nationals to make use of the windows of opportunity for new exemption permits through VFS Global," Motsoaledi said. For those who applied for waivers or visas, however, Motsoaledi said there was no need. "VFS Global has been instructed to fast-track the process for new exemption permits and a dedicated team will be set up to deal with applications for new exemptions," he said.
However, Motsoaledi added: "But those who did not apply for the waivers, there's nothing we can do. They need to go to VFS and start all over again. It's not my fault, we've given them the opportunity, we've extended it many times as you know. So, I call upon all the affected Lesotho and Zimbabwean nationals to make use of the window of opportunity to apply for new exemption permits through VFS Global."
Motsoaledi's announcement on the extensions comes in the wake of legal action brought on by the non-profit Helen Suzman Foundation (HSF) which launched an urgent application brought to protect the rights of ZEP holders. was dismissed.
Despite the multiple extensions of the ZEP - first enacted in 2009 and extended during 2014, 2017 - Motsoaledi said it didn't make the legislation part of the Immigration Act, which "bestows South Africa's Home Affairs Minister with wide powers to grant a category of foreigners the right of permanent residence for a specified or unspecified period when special circumstances exist".